In 2023, Mansfield’s legendary girls track and field head coach, John Mackey stepped off the track and into retirement. Mansfield ruled the track and field scene for decades under Mackey’s reign, but how would the Lady Tigers program fair in the future without their fearless leader? Many other programs surely touted the fact that without Mackey, Mansfield’s diamonds had lost their luster, and that the Lady Tigers were now vulnerable rather than a viable threat. Mansfield went into the Arkansas State Indoor Track meet with new faces in coaching positions and an extremely youthful group of athletes. When the Lady Tigers walked out of the Randal Tyson Center, they were the State Indoor Runner-Ups……or so they thought.
With a target centered directly on them, the Lady Tigers laced up their spikes and went to work. Mansfield took an early lead with 39 points after a handful of events which gave a quick boost of confidence to the Lady Tigers, but teams like Magazine (23pts), Carlisle (20pts), and Yellville-Summit (16pts) were not far behind Mansfield in the early goings. The Lady Tigers maintained their lead for most of the day while other programs shuffled back and forth all while slowly catching up to Mansfield. It was the field events that allowed teams the gap on the Lady Tigers. Yellville-Summit took first place in the high jump and long jump, Magazine won the shot-put throw, and Des Arc pulled off the win in the triple-jump. Mansfield’s review mirror was becoming quite crowded as the day wore on, but the Lady Tigers endeavored to persevere. Magazine and Carlisle lost traction in the running events cause the overall race to the finish come down to just Mansfield and Yellville-Sumit. 71-68, until the Lady Panthers overtook Mansfield 77-76 with just the 4×400 left to go. Yellville-Summit finished first in the 4×400 while the Lady Tigers placed fifth solidifying Mansfield’s fate. Once the points were all tallied up at the end of the night with a final scoring of Mansfield 97, Yellville-Summit 98. Although Runner-Up isn’t what the Lady Tigers had hoped for, they did everything in their power to make it that far. The key word in that phrase is everything in “their” power.
After returning home with the State Runner-Up trophy, Mansfield noticed an inconsistency in one of the events. While the specific event seems to be under lock and key, Mansfield was informed late Tuesday, February 6th that there was a misinterpretation of the results of one of the events which affected the outcome of the final results. Once the issue was addressed and the points were corrected, the final scoring placed Yellville-Summit with 96 overall points and Mansfield with 98 points giving the Lady Tigers the 2024 Arkansas 1-2A Indoor Track State Championship. The victory gives the Lady Tigers their third consecutive Indoor State Championship (2022, 2023, and 2024). Although no longer their head coach, Coach John Mackey was in attendance to see the legacy he helped create kick off a new era in the right way.
Sophomore, Daisy Nelson, led the Lady Tigers in overall points as the young star obtained 27 total points in her five events. Nelson was not able to meet the pole vault entry requirements but easily made up for the loss of points by setting personal records in her 200-meter dash, 60-meter dash, 60-meter hurdles, and long jump. Junior, Trinity Triska, also ushered in a slew of points for the Lady Tigers by logging in a combined 26 points in her long jump, triple jump, 4×800 relay, 4×400 relay, and 400-meter dash. Kaylee Ward and Kaylie Lowery shot the scorecards in shot-put which put up the largest single event point grab for the Lady Tigers as Ward finished 2nd and Lowery finished third to combine for 14 points. The Mansfield youth movement continued for the Lady Tigers as freshman distance runner, Bailey London, ran away with combined 22 points in the 3200-meter run, 1600-meter run, 800-meter run, and 800-meter relay. There was only one senior present at the meet to represent Mansfield on the Indoor Track stage for the final time. Raine Hecox competed in the 4×400 meter relay, 4×800 meter relay, and the 200-meter dash to score a total of 11 points for the Lady Tigers. Hecox emptied her tank in each event to make sure she left it all on the track for the last time while allowing her to set a new personal record in her 4×400 and 4×800 times.
Although the taste of victory was delayed for Mansfield, it made the flavor of being Champions that much better. Indoor Track is an early measuring stick for what can be expected when the outdoor meets roll around. The Lady Tigers were shorthanded at their Indoor Meet with a handful of athletes still in basketball and a few events that are in Outdoor Track were not a part of the Indoor Track meet. This means that the Lady Tigers have a good shot at winning both the Indoor and Outdoor State Championships this season. With the 2024 Lady Tigers winning their third consecutive State Indoor Championship and first one under new head coach, Kaylie Andrews, it is evident that the Mansfield Lady Tigers Track and Field program will continue to be the “Top Tigers” on the track scene for years to come.